By Stephanie Massot, HC Link
Last month in partnership with Timiskaming Best Start, HC Link delivered a webinar called ‘What we are doing in a good way: A cultural competency framework model’. Working in a ‘Good Way’ means doing things in a principled, holistic way with kindness, caring, patience and, respect and is a term commonly used by many First Nations and Métis to describe a way of thinking, being and doing that is rooted in Indigenous values.i During the preparations for the webinar, the Indigenous women I worked with taught me what it looks and feels like to approach a webinar in a Good Way.
For instance, holding meetings in a Good Way meant that our conversations went at a comfortable pace and were not rushed. This usually meant that meetings took longer than the time we had planned for and as a result I started to leave an hour available after each meeting in case that time was needed for further discussion. I valued having that flexibility in my own work schedule because I learned that when there is an opportunity to circle back and work in a non-linear way, more ideas are heard and new developments can emerge.
When working with Algonquin Elder, Grandma Marilyn, I learned that she wanted to smudgeii while drumming. As she says in the Implementation Toolkit for the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework, “Be aware of the frame of mind you’re in, not having negative thoughts: the smudge and the drum are there at the start for a reason, to calm us down.” We learned that the fire code of the building where Grandma Marilyn and the other presenters were supposed to gather would not allow for smudging and so another meeting space was found and we planned for other tech checks to occur there. As well, a smudging is typically never filmed. However, Grandma Marilyn offered to have a smudging she was doing in the community be filmed before the webinar and we included that as a video during the beginning and ending ceremonies of the webinar.
Opening and ending a webinar with an Elder was a powerful experience. In the community, Grandma Marilyn usually has from sunrise to sunset to sing and drum and is not constrained by the timelines of a webinar. Grandma Marilyn and her team of helpers practiced to ensure that everyone felt comfortable for the webinar and that all attendees would be able to participate in these ceremonies for Giving Thanks. Grandma Marilyn shared her wisdom with everyone and helped us all connect to each other even though we were all virtually attending. Participants from the webinar shared how they felt more interconnected with everyone and were thankful for this experience. Captured in the image below is Elder Protocol/Etiquette that should be considered if you would like to ask an Elder from your community to join an event that you are organising.
This handout was developed as a promotional tool highlighting key elements of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework.
To download a copy of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework go to http://www.timiskamingbeststart.ca/resources_en.html.
The presenters encouraged all attendees to drop in, say hi and have a coffee at the band offices of local Indigenous communities. I also learned from the team that learning and using the language of the people you are working with shows respect for the language and culture. I learned that Chi-miigwetch means “big” or extra special thanks in Ojibwe and followed the advice of one of the presenters and started to use it wherever I would consider saying thank you – in my meetings, emails and the webinar. As a settler on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, I learned so much about working in a Good Way and I can’t say miigwetch enough to everyone who taught me during this webinar.
i Chansonneuve, D. & Hache, A. (2016). Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework Implementation Planning Guide. Page 3.
ii Native Women’s Centre (2008). Traditional Teachings Handbook. Page 7.